February 22, 2018 - In January 2018, I journeyed to Antarctica and checked two major goals off my list: I skied cross-country to the South Pole, and climbed Mount Vinson (one of the “Seven Summits”).
My overall goal is to complete the Explorers Grand Slam, which includes climbing all Seven Summits – the highest peaks on each continent – and skiing to the North and South Poles. With Antarctica under my belt, I am one step closer! I’ve now climbed three of the Seven Summits – Vinson, Everest and Aconcagua… only four mountains and one Pole to go!
In Antarctica, planning was paramount. There were six of us in the group I skied with, one guide and five travelers, and we had to function like a well-oiled machine. For our ski journey of more than 60 miles to the South Pole we had to map out each day down to the minute, and judiciously manage our equipment and supplies.
We needed to ski 7.5 miles a day, every day, for eight days in a row. Logistically, that meant ski for an hour and 15 minutes, break for 15 minutes, and repeat. While skiing, I was pulling a 120-pound sled loaded with clothes, a tent, cooking equipment, fuel and a sleeping bag. During our 15-minute breaks I would check and change my artificial leg – putting new insulation between my leg and the prosthetic. This had to be done in under two minutes to avoid frostbite. I think I forgot to mention… it was -30 degrees Fahrenheit there!
When we got to our fourth day of skiing, there were some challenges. One of my teammates hadn’t trained properly, and was having trouble keeping up with the group while pulling a sled. To help, I had taken on additional weight on my sled for the first few days. But I had trained for a certain amount of weight in my sled, and now I was carrying a lot more. This changed the amount of pressure on my prosthetic leg. . . which led to a sore on my stump and bleeding. I started to get a bad attitude – I was angry with my teammate for not preparing enough for this journey. I had a bad day.
But then I realized something . . . I control my own attitude and outlook.
There’s no use focusing on what I cannot control. Success almost always follows a great attitude, so if I wanted to finish out the journey successfully, I needed to turn my attitude around.
When you’re skiing for 12 hours each day – you have a lot of time to think. Especially when you’re surrounded by miles and miles of nothing but white snow below and frosty blue sky above you.
I thought about control and how having it, or not, can factor in to achieving a goal. From my perspective, success in any goal can be broken down into three elements – defined by your level of control over each one.
- The things you have strict control over. This is your preparation for the goal and your attitude. In my case that means doing the research, putting in time to train, getting the right equipment, keeping proper weight and nutrition, and always maintaining a positive outlook.
- The items you have partial control over. This can include things like the people you work with to achieve a goal. For me, it’s the expedition teams I travel with and the guides I trust, for others it could be the partners you work with in business. Do the research to choose the right partnerships.
- The things you cannot control. For me, that’s stuff like bad weather or having a teammate get sick on an expedition.
The good news: two-thirds of this equation can be influenced and orchestrated by YOU. Don’t dwell on the things you can’t control – you have them outnumbered anyway.
All the greatest journeys start with one step. A goal can seem huge, unreachable even when you first begin, but once you break it down and map it out – when you take stock of all the variables that are actually within your control – it’s not so scary.
The mountain may look intimidating from far away. . . but the closer you get to it, the more tangible it becomes – until you can reach right out and touch it.
On to the next adventure! Thanks for following along with me.